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Local Health News
Why Is Dengue Widespread This Year?
Condensed by L.D. Ramirez (sourced from Agence France-Presse)

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Dubbed "breakbone fever", dengue is one of the world's leading mosquito-borne illnesses and infects tens of millions across the globe annually.


WHAT IS DENGUE?


Its grim nickname comes from the disease's intense flu-like symptoms: severe headache, pain behind the eyes, full-body aches, high fever, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rash.


It's most serious - and deadly - in children, especially young girls, though scientists don't know why.


Contracting one of dengue's four strains gives immunity only to that particular one. But later picking up a different strain, called a serotype, usually causes a worse infection than the first time.


With no known treatment for dengue, doctors can only help to ease the virus' brutal symptoms, which can last weeks and often renders patients completely immobile.


HOW DOES DENGUE SPREAD?


Dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which thrives in densely-populated tropical climates and breed in stagnant pools of water. The mosquitoes pick up the virus from infected humans - even asymptomatic ones - and pass it along to other people through bites.


Explosive outbreaks have ravaged Southeast Asia this year, infecting hundreds of thousands, killing hundreds, and crippling health care systems as governments struggle to contain the untreatable virus.


Breakneck urbanisation across the globe has helped the virus thrive, especially in crowded, fast-growing mega-cities like Manila.


Experts say the widespread adoption of plastic is also to blame - storage containers, discarded takeout boxes, backyard pools, plant pots and cooking urns all collect water, which then stagnates and turns into dengue mosquito breeding grounds.


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Figure 01 - Life cycle of Aedes Aegypti mosquito.


HOW CAN DENGUE BE CONTAINED?


In Southeast Asia, insecticide fogging is commonly used to kill mosquitoes off, but they usually return after a few days, and insects can quickly become resistant to the chemicals.


Dengvaxia, a controversial vaccine developed by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur has been greenlit for use in 21 countries and the European Union - but it's far from perfect. It requires three doses, and it should only be given to people above the age of nine who have been previously infected by dengue.


In 2016, the Philippines was one of the first countries to use Dengvaxia in a mass immunisation programme, but its fumbled rollout has been blamed for the deaths of dozens of children and led to its eventual ban.


Several countries are also trialling the so-called Wolbachia method. Although it's too early to say if the approach works on a large scale, early results are promising.


Mosquitoes are infected with the naturally-occurring Wolbachia bacteria - which is mostly dengue-resistant - and are released to repopulate wild mosquito colonies to reduce disease transmission.


© Aventus Medical Care Inc., 2019.
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